Relax and make friends while sailing around Croatia but expect the unexpected, because those are the best bits, writes Amelia Wade.

The fan was admirable in its efforts, but quite frankly was doing sweet nothing. The bed sheet never even had a shot at being used for its intended purpose and was instead acting as a bed separator between myself and my co-sailor.

It was hot. A heat like you've never known before, where the air weighs on you as would a duvet in a sauna, smothering you with its sticky clinginess.

But it's the middle of August and this is heaven for Antipodeans otherwise frozen in another atmosphere.


Outside my tiny room, there's instant relief. I plunge into the crisp, clear Adriatic Sea. As my scalp hits the water, I'm instantly cured.

A few laps around the boat and a quick chat to new friends on the other boat in our flotilla and I'm as good as new.

It's not a bad life.

Six days ago, all nerves and apprehension about what our next week of the Adventure SailWeek Croatia would entail, my five other crewmates and I lugged our bags on to the 45ft yacht for our briefing with our guide, Vedran.

Those of us who'd stuck to "the smaller the better" luggage recommendations grew smug when we spotted the size of our cabins, though you can't say we weren't warned.

Our formal introduction wasn't dissimilar from a flight attendant safety briefing and was mostly "exit here", "don't spill your beer there" and "help me sometimes please". But the biggest takeaway, which bookended our skipper's introduction, was to only put human waste down the loo and make sure you pump it.

Or it would be a problem for all of us.

Perhaps out of fear of not embarrassing ourselves in front of our new family, by the end of the week that problem never arose.


In fact, no problems arose at all. Even when a brief but dramatic storm forced us to seek shelter next to a patrol station as we watched huge inflatable flamingo and unicorn pool toys get tossed down a channel as thunder cracked and lightning tore apart the sky.

It gave us a taste of the excitement of the high seas, but without that pesky threat to life experienced by real adventurers.

The rest was all sail, swim, sunbathe, eat, drink and repeat.

We kicked off the week with a cracker dinner at a hidden burger and ribs restaurant a short walk from the marina and it became apparent pretty quickly everyone got along well, which wasn't a surprise given we were mostly from Downunder — even the two Scots were living in Australia.

The next morning we putted out past the medieval walls of Dubrovnik, and after seeing them from atop and from the sea, the latter is by far the most impressive.

After a spot of cliff-jumping, we jetted into the marina of Sipan, guided in by a couple of delightful locals whose grey-haired bellies shook as they laughed.

That night we were in for our first of many Croatian feasts — peka, or "under the bell". Dubbed the Croatian hangi, meat and vegetables are slow-cooked on coals under a heavy metal dome for hours on end. It was one of our gang's 30th birthday and judging by the tenderness of the goat, I would have believed it had been slow-cooking just as long as the birthday boy had been on the planet.

The next morning we set off on the four-hour trip to the National Park of Sipan and along the way had one of the unexpected highlights of the trip.

With a few of our crew susceptible to seasickness and the sun beating down on the deck, Vedran decided we were in need of a pit stop. After all jumping in the water, he tossed us a long rope, fired the engine back up and dragged us along in the sea, which caused tears of laughter as bikini bottoms and speedos got pulled down in the momentum.

In fact, at the end of the trip as we reminisced on our highlights, most were unexpected — from the wrong turn we took while cycling around the stunning and peaceful lakes on Mljet, which led to a fig farm excursion, to the plans for a Croatian wine-tasting being foiled by an adrenaline-packed storm.

Last minute, Vedran organised for us to go to Marendin, a small wine bar in Korcula, whose owner sparkled as he gave us tasting notes, tapa after tapa, and detailed histories of each bottle as he topped up our glasses.

The unexpected and unplanned are just part of boat life — enjoyable when you relax into it.

The new friends — a happy surprise for most who join the fleet — are one of the reasons Kiwi Vincent Radonich ditched corporate finance London and started SailWeek Croatia; he loved watching people bond, no matter their backgrounds.

"It's a bit more intimate so you get to meet everyone, you have people from all over the world and they end up being friends."

There are three trips on offer around the country — the Adventure SailWeek Croatia for those wanting to experience the wine, food, culture and skydiving (if you're brave enough); the Party SailWeek Croatia for those preferring the debaucherous and the Ultra SailWeek Croatia, which visits the three-day dance festival.

Radonich has grown his business over the last five years, with the party option having more than 30 yachts in the flotilla, and has expanded into Greece.

Part Croatian himself, he says he saw a hole in the sail week market because, besides the debaucherous cruises, there was nothing offered for those who wanted to relax, see the coast and enjoy Croatia with a few Aperol Spritzes along the way.

And he's managed to find the balance.

By the end of the week, everyone on board was firm friends bound by promises to see each other again soon, memories of unexpected delights, a new passion for the Boat Life.




— with its low-cost subsidiary flydubai — flies from Auckland to Zagreb, in Croatia.

For information on Sail Croatia, go to